Three people were spied on by Israeli police using Pegasus spyware, inquiry finds

Israel

Israel IsraelInvestigation is underway over allegations that Israel’s police department had used Pegasus spyware to target citizens of Israel. Initial investigation has confirmed the allegations and found that the spyware was used against three people. Pegasus spyware is developed by Israel’s NSO Group and has allegedly been used to surveil scores of journalists, activists, politicians across different countries, triggering investigations. This has further raised concerns over existence of any such more software to surveil key individuals.

Israeli local news broadcaster Channel 12 has said that a police investigation was issued by Israel’s public security minister, Omer Barlev. The investigation revealed that out of 26 names who were mentioned in the report to have been targeted by Pegasus spyware three were targeted by Israeli police. The police was however, able to successfully hack only one of the individual’s phones. The names of three people haven’t been revealed. It is said that investigations involved officers from intelligence agencies Mossad and Shin Bet.

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Initial investigation was ordered by Barlev at the behest of Naftali Bennett, the Prime Minister of Israel. “Before a decision is made on the mechanism for investigating the affair, the prime minister requested to conduct a [further] probe of the 26 names mentioned in the Calcalist newspaper’s report,” a statement from Bennett’s office said.

Bennett said this week, “This tool [Pegasus] and similar tools are important tools in the fight against terrorism and severe crime. But they were not intended to be used in fishing campaigns targeting the Israeli public or officials, which is why we need to understand exactly what happened.”

NSO has said that all its sales of spyware are authorized by the government and it does not itself operate Pegasus. This has further led to drama around corruption trial of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with him seizing reports of police allegedly tapping phones of key witnesses for his trial.

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